Osceola County commissioners vote to monitor toxin levels near landfill accepting coal ash

Field Sutton reports.

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Osceola County commissioners said they’ll ask a local landfill again to stop accepting Puerto Rican coal ash.

Board members spent hours debating the issue at a meeting Monday afternoon.

The controversy is split into concerns over perceived health risks and the last-minute vote that allowed Puerto Rico’s electric utility to dump hundreds of thousands of tons of coal ash into the JED landfill in St. Cloud.

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Commissioners came close to approving a new requirement banning most late agenda additions. But it got derailed by a companion item that would have cut the number of public meetings held by commissioners each month.

The board successfully approved spending $200,000 a year to have an independent company come in and monitor toxin levels around the landfill.

County leaders have already asked Waste Connections, which operates the landfill, to stop accepting coal ash, but the company has said it intends to keep accepting coal ash until October.

Commissioners said their options for ending the coal ash dumping are slim because they entered into a contract with the landfill and risk being sued for breaking it.

At the meeting, commissioners asked a local lobbyist to explore drafting a bill in Tallahassee that would outlaw the dumping of coal ash anywhere in the state.

The coal ash is tested before it leaves Puerto Rico.

It contains some levels of eight metals: aresnic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium and silver.

The levels have been shown to be within the safety guidelines mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

In May, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection sent an inspector to the landfill, who said the place did have proper documentation for the coal ash as it arrived for dumping.